Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All Greek To Me

The group of girls standing on the bench look, to my jaded eye, like a line of Malibu Barbies, lovingly posed. Their skins are smooth and tan (as they say here). Their white teeth flash in the May sunshine, and their floral dresses look as good on their girlish frames as they did on the Anthropolgie mannequins. But these girls ain't no dummies; in fact today they're graduating from Yale grad school. Beneath those Hollywood-perfect mortar boards lie five or six of the finest minds of their (our?) generation. They're so matchingly, toothsomely pretty that they're hard to count. But whether there's five, or whether there's six, you can bet your $60,000 tuition fee that they were in a sorority.

At the American University where I was a (sweatier, more hungover, generally less picturesque) graduate, we didn't have the Greek system. There weren't even the "dining houses" that allow for a reined-in version of the same rampant social Darwinism. Perhaps that was wise. This was, after all, the same school where undergraduates cut out Saussure quotes and stuck them to their Old Navy backpacks. I never got the impression that U of C shysters were much cop at the age-old student skills of varsity sports, underage drinking and getting laid. To be fair, their math scores were out of sight.

Looks like Yale's a whole other ballgame. We walk past another group of cheesecakes, these ones posing on the steps to a shadowy looking building. This, we learn, is the headquarters of the Yale Skull and Bones society. Like a fraternity on crack, its workings are secretive and its entry requirements highly selective. Fifteen new "bonesmen" are chosen each year to swell the numbers, and past members include George W himself. Rumour has it that during World War 1 Bonesmen took possession of the skull of Geronimo, and native American chiefs are now demanding its return. If things get too hot for the society, they can always retreat to their private campsite.

We walk on, without seeing the skull, without learning the secret handshakes. By now the Malibu Barbies are all high-kicking in unison. The Skull and Bones boys nod approvingly.

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